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The new axis of evil

Are we ready to defend our civilization?

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi receives a standing ovation after speaking to the Russian State Duma in Moscow on Jan. 20, 2022. The State Duma, The Federal Assembly of The Russian Federation Press Service via Associated Press

The new axis of evil

The 20th century knew more than its share of evil powers, but something new, ominous, and world-shaping came into view in 1936 when Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany declared a “Rome-Berlin Axis,” united in opposition to the rest of Europe. The combination of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy into a fascist alliance represented a clear and present danger to civilized Europe and, by extension, to the United States as well. Their “Pact of Steel” in 1939 formalized the threat even as global war loomed. Very soon, Imperial Japan would join the Axis powers as an ally, and as a direct threat to the United States and its allies. It would be a battle unto death.

Decades later, President George W. Bush identified a new “Axis of Evil” including Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. Now, as Ukraine fights against a Russian invasion and Israel fights against a massive attack by the Islamic terrorist organization Hamas, the picture coming into view reveals a new axis of evil that poses a civilizational challenge that the United States and its allies cannot ignore. The new axis powers pose an existential threat to Western civilization, and they have declared themselves to be our enemies. Worse, they are joining in combined action. Once again, an axis threat looms.

The new axis of evil includes Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. All four nations pose a direct threat to the West. Each is working to subvert the world order. All four are autocracies or dictatorships who see the United States and our allies as decadent, weak, rich, and temporary. All four are deeply rooted in history and driven by an aggressive ideology.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a vast criminal enterprise armed with a massive nuclear arsenal and modern strategic weapons. Though his ideology is presented as a reconstitution of imperial Russia under the tsars, in reality today’s Russia is a political cover for gangster enterprises led by massively wealthy oligarchs who all work for the new criminal tsar, Putin. Putin’s basic worldview comes from his experience as an officer with the dreaded Soviet KGB, but Putin is not a dedicated communist. He is the world’s most powerful mob boss. His design is to destabilize the West, regain territory, and remake the world order on his own terms. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is part of a far larger plan, which is what has driven nations like Finland into the NATO orbit.

Xi Jinping’s China is an ideologically communist regime that now has ambitions that far outstrip anything imagined by Mao Zedong, who led the communist revolution that took power in 1949 and engineered the Cultural Revolution and other actions that led to the deaths of millions. Under Xi and the modern Chinese Communist Party, China has emerged as an empire determined to rule the world, or at least reshape the entire world to its interest. Its vast Belt and Road initiative, its designs to gain deep-water naval bases in the western hemisphere, its open aggression in the Pacific, its claims to territory and sea lanes, and its direct threats to Taiwan are backed up with a belligerence and open agenda of political destabilization that tests the United States and its allies virtually every day.

These four powers are increasingly aligned against American interests and, in the case of both Iran and North Korea, the ruling powers want to see the United States destroyed.

Iran is probably the axis power with greatest intent to destroy Israel, destabilize the world order, and undermine the United States. It works by subversion and through countless proxies, including Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Driven by a radical Islamic ideology wedded to the use of terror as an extension of state power, the Shia ayatollahs of Iran see the United States as the Great Satan, and they have waged a jihad against America and American allies since 1979. Iran is a medieval theocracy animated by murderous passion and unrestrained by international norms. U.S and European intelligence agencies can trace Iran directly to the most dangerous terrorist groups and to the genocidal Hamas attack on Israel launched Oct. 7.

North Korea, often referred to as the “Hermit Kingdom,” is the homicidal fiefdom of the Kim family dynasty. It combines ruthlessness and paranoia and the world’s most deadly cult of personality. Kim Jong Un, the third-generation “supreme leader” of North Korea, maintains power by terror and the threat of death, most often directed against its own citizens. Western intelligence sources are convinced that Kim had several enemies, including his own uncle, executed by anti-aircraft guns. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Kim seeks to subvert Western interests and counts on the protection of both Russia and China. North Korea is also armed with nuclear missiles, and some of the regime’s rockets are believed capable of striking the western United States.

These four powers are increasingly aligned against American interests and, in the case of both Iran and North Korea, the ruling powers want to see the United States destroyed. Iran is determined to see Israel erased from the map. These four nations are also involved in collusion and mutual support. Just days ago, Vladimir Putin went to visit China and to meet with Xi Jinping, affirming their solidarity. Iran is supporting terrorist organizations and selling armed drones to Russia to be used against Ukraine. North Korea is a pariah state determined to cause problems all over the world and driven by paranoid ideology and worship of a dictator.

Once again, we are about to find out if freedom-loving nations can muster the determination to defend those freedoms against rogue regimes. Freedom, human dignity, and constitutional government have enemies, and thus we have enemies. Far too many politicians and world leaders refuse to acknowledge the reality. We now live in a very dangerous world, facing enemies who plot our destruction. Denial is deadly. This will not be a short-term challenge and every one of these threats is daunting. The new Axis of Evil represents an unavoidable civilizational challenge, and we are about to find out just how determined we are that our civilization shall exist for our own children.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also the host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.

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